Kochi hospital performs Asia’s first double above-the-elbow hand transplants
A Kochi hospital became the first medical institution in Asia to transplant both arms above the elbow.
The transplant was done on a 19-year-old girl at the Amrita Hospital where India’s first hand transplant was done in 2015. Since then the hospital in Kerala has performed four hand transplants.
So far only nine upper arm transplants have been done across the world, according to doctors at the Amrita Hospital.
The recipient, chemical engineering student Shreya Siddanagowda, had lost both her arms when her hands above the elbow were crushed as the bus in which she was travelling overturned.
She was devastated to have lost both her hands at such a young age.
“My whole world collapsed and I couldn’t believe what had happened. When my mother told me that hand transplants are now being done in India, I got great strength and hope, and my disability began to look temporary. I felt that one day, I will lead a near-normal life again,” said Shreya.
Meanwhile, she had been using prosthetic hands but did not like it as they did not allow her to do her daily chores.
Her wait for donor-hands ended in August when the family of a 20-year-old college student, who was declared brain dead after a motorcycle accident, readily agreed to donate his hands and other organs. The surgery team included 20 surgeons and 16 anesthetists. The surgery lasted for 13 hours.
Doctors revealed the rare medical feat to media after the recipient’s body accepted the transplanted arms.
“Upper arm transplants are much more challenging than those at the wrist or forearm level due to the complexity involved in accurately identifying and connecting various nerves, muscles, tendons and arteries,” said Dr. Subramania Iyer, head of the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Kochi hospital.
The doctor also said that the rehabilitation is more difficult when the transplant is done in the upper arm. “Rehabilitation is difficult in such cases because the patient bears the weight of the transplanted hands at the upper arm. And, in this case, both the arms have been transplanted at the middle of the upper arm,” he said.
Shreya’s body has accepted the transplanted arms, doctors said, adding she has to undergo intensive physiotherapy to gain the use of her arms.
“Shreya is currently undergoing a regime for movements of her fingers, wrists and shoulders. The elbow movements are planned to be started in a couple of weeks. We expect that she will regain 85% of hand function in the next one-and-a-half years,” said Dr Mohit Sharma and Dr. Ravishankaran, her surgeons.